Electoral System Reform Policy discussion

(Jesse Hermans) #61

Closed lists are not okay apparently, since they delegate the selection of the candidate(s) to party officials rather than a direct election by voters - which in my view is highly undesirable since it empowers party power brokers over voters.
The reason group tickets were permitted is they are just a preselected configuration of preferences which the voter still “directly” elects by effectively auto-filling in their (below the line) ballot with the preset preferences.
The recent changes just made these group tickets limited to preferencing candidates within their own group, instead of subsequent groups. The fundamental characteristic of direct election remains intact.

(Jesse Hermans) #62

Not in Tasmania. People there actually elected an ALP candidate who was further down the party list than a higher ALP candidate because Hare Clark was the norm - it’s changed voting habits/culture.
Group tickets should never have been introduced and the problem of long ballot papers fixed with optional prefential voting - which it has. The problem we’ll soon face though is the de facto 1-6 above the line which makes the system only viable for 6 parties, as well as potentially large numbers of vote expiration.

(Alex Jago) #63

If we had 6 viable parties to begin with, we would never have seen such a proliferation of Senate-only micros.

I think once we get down to about 9, we’ll stabilise. Either on the political compass: {left, centre, right} x {authoritarian, neutral, libertarian} or using Mitchell’s Eight Ways (plus populism).


…so they’re exactly the same thing, assuming the lists are set in stone at some point prior to the election. Possibly the difference making group tickets okay but closed lists not okay is the presence of below the line.

It’s rather academic since I wouldn’t propose closed lists. I have in the past, simply because of the de facto list nature of upper house voting. These days I’d rather make the STV work better, have the lower house be proportional, then wait a few decades to see if the proportions of each house start matching up enough to convince people to go unicameral.

I know. Came up when rerunning calculations to see what the results would’ve been without a DD or with other variable numbers of seats. I’m curious about how frequent it happened prior to the abolishing of group tickets but haven’t gotten around to checking/processing the data yet.

As far as I can tell the huge ballots happened for two reasons. Preference farming with group tickets was one. The other was making Senate seats the only viable path for minor parties to get into federal parliament. If the House of Representatives isn’t reformed I predict the huge ballot papers will continue, only slightly reduced.

The system was only really viable for 3 parties up until Xenophon took over the SA non-major vote. That isn’t likely to change much.


Oh, fun fact:

Senate votes that only place a 1st preference above the line without any further 2-6 are still considered valid. They just say otherwise on the ballot paper. Similarly, votes below the line that only have 6 boxes marked rather than the alleged minimum of 12 are also considered valid. :stuck_out_tongue:

(Ben McGinnes) #66

You’ve got to be kidding?!

Risking our reputation for pursuing well researched, viable solutions and reforms which protect the rights of individuals and the both the transparency and reliability of the democratic foundations of society out of fear that caution regarding any technology may harm a secondary reputation for technological acumen is significantly worse.

Besides, given some of the people in this party, the chances of us actually being as seen as not being tech savvy is pretty slim. Even just restricting that to cryptographic matters.

(Ben McGinnes) #67

That’s because the AEC knows that decades of people doing exactly that isn’t going to change overnight and they’ll likely still have enough information in most cases since the major parties always put in enough candidates to try to collect the set.


Good case for electronic assisted vote casting to enforce vote validity where the intent is to cast a valid vote.

Ben, you are not seeing the point being made here abput technology. It’s not about using x technology or y specific implementation, it’s about:

  1. Recognising that technology could have a role to play, it’s theoretically possible to use it to assist physical voting (but not replace), depending on the specific implementation
  2. Technology is already being used behind the scenes and needs oversight.
  3. We can’t stop the government from looking into further electronic voting, it’s already happening. All options on the market currently have major issues, we might as well steer policy in the right direction. If we had a policy, it would make it so much easier for us to push hard when this issue comes up and actually lead the outcry, and it will come up sooner or later.
  4. We are not pushing for any specific technology, process or implementation at this stage because none meet our requirements so far.
  5. Blockchain is an exciting new technology which warrants further investigation, but it is unproven and lacks public confidence so we don’t back it at this stage. (But at least we have acknowledged the block chain hype)
  6. Glorified Pencils + OCR (already in use but needs reigning in) is the closest thing to being ready to adopt, and at least that has advantage over real pencils with less errors
  7. ALL technology using in voting MUST meet certain requirements and adequately address certain concerns, not just some but ALL of them [insert everything you said plus more]

(Ben McGinnes) #69

That’s already been done for assisting vision impaired voters.

Correct, we’ve raised this issue numerous times in the past and the AEC and others always wheedle their way out of it by claiming “commercial in confidence” BS.

Not quite all. There was one piece of software used in the ACT about 12 or 13 years ago that the company who got the tender released the full source code voluntarily and before anyone asked. When asked why by American journalists (it was around the same time as the Diebold stuff), the lead developer said that it was more important for a transparent democracy and doing otherwise would be unethical. IIRC, they were not a regularly FOSS development house, they just viewed voting software as different and with special requirements (that wereb’t part of the tender either).

Can’t remember the name of the company, though. They weren’t very big.

Really? A little earlier things looked very much like playing blockchain buzzword bingo.

Not only that, but those dtrengths it does have are in the distributed processing and participation. Running a federal, state or local election, however, has a considerable number of legal requirements and even if it were to be adopted. the situation would still necessitate either a centralisation of the computing resources with the AEC or a vetting process for third party participation (including hardware vetting).

If, however, you were leaning more towards not only distributing the load, but also using it to facilitate casting votes through direct participation in maintaining that blockchain (i.e. running a full node), then you start to skate into the very tricky area of needing to maintain the secrecy of the ballot, while still confirming each person only casts one vote.

It’s not designed for this, but engineers everywhere have found their newest, favourite hammer and now everything looks like a nail.

The advantage with the current system of scanning physical ballots, though, is that if there are inconsistencies with coding the ballots in then the original can be double-checked. The same process was used with the 2011 Census and it’s actually pretty decent. The only inverse way to do it is to complete ballots on a voting machine, print the ballot and submit that; with the printed ballot being the official vote to be confirmed and the electronic record just being available as a convenience.

Yes. Plus it should all be publicly accessible and open source.

(miles_w) #70

Are we an advocacy group or trying to get into government? We can do both but one or the other needs to come first. I vote government. We can and should still retain EBP as the primary framework for approaching this issue. I personally haven’t read enough into blockchain to understand the full security implications however a large, active and energised voter base (Flux) are either unconcerned or unaware of those implications.

And the reality is that voter base is charging ahead to support blockchain and evoting in general. Are we going to pull the rug out from under them by telling them their primary issue is a nonstarter? That’s an existential threat to them and will alienate both their potential support and any strategic alliance we should be forming with that ideologically aligned party.


Miles, this is where I’m going to draw the line.

I know that you have been recently interested in the Flux party, and they share the idea that any member can contribute to policy, but that’s where the similarities end. They are fundamentally different to us because they don’t share the same core principles.

Right now perhaps most of them are progressives in that party (I don’t know) but there is nothing to stop a bunch of One Nation supporters from signing up to Flux and steering their votes in the complete other direction. Or their blockchain could be compromised by whoever can build the biggest botnet to impersonate users.

There is simply no way that we could ever support them - we are ideologically incompatible. An alliance could only go so far as logistical co-operation without inferring support for them.

Yes blockchain is interesting, I am very interested, but we can’t compromise our values.

(miles_w) #72

This is my fundamental concern with them. Not One Nation or any particular ideology but that it is a parallel governmental system which has multiple unanticipated implications. Voter sovereignty, constitutional/legal challenges, completely unpredictable ideological swings. They are currently developing a uniform policy platform to sit beside their commitment to membership issue votes (and theoretically that policy will be subordinate to the member votes). Whichever way those policies go, I think they risk an existential identity crisis

Their single unifying principle is direct democracy with elements of delegatory democracy (unknown future policy wonkery notwithstanding). That’s something we’re not in conflict with.

(Ben McGinnes) #73

I’m inclined to agree, particularly when electoral and voting reform can only be implemented once we get in and make it happen. On the other hand, a reliable and functioning electoral system is the foundation on which the democracy is built. So at the very least a watchful eye must be kept on it at all times.

That’s why we smacked PayPal around a couple of years ago; the money was fairly small (less than $500, I don’t recall the exact figure), but it was their negligent undermining of basic democratic principles of the Commonwealth that needed to be confronted and stopped, permanently.

The same sort of thing is true with matters of electoral reform since everything else the Party works towards is built on a foundation of the electoral system. It can’t be permitted to crumble; either by falling too far behind with regards to suitable technological advances, nor by rushing too quickly into something that is entirely unproven in that field.

I’d be very surprised if either of those first two statements were actually true outside the potential echo chamber of one’s geeky friends. Particularly the blockchain comment, but probably the e-voting thing as well.

As for pulling the rug out from under anyone; it’s not that that’s what we’d solely set out to do, it’s that the process of testing whether a system was robust enough to handle the intended task securely, transparently and while maintaining the privacy of a secret ballot would very likely prove a little too difficult to achieve with a blockchain.

For a little perspective, I’m not really giving it much thought since there isn’t even a voting system designyet, but I’ve thought of one way to use such a voting blockchain network to weaken the degree of secrecy in the secret ballot. Since that’s an aspect of voting which has long been recognised as being essential to the functioning of a democracy, then a system which undermined it (even inadvertently) is one which will ultimately be harmful.


Good to know. There could also be applications for Postal Votes too. For example: Be marked off the roll in advance (in person) and then getting access codes sent out to them.

That’s why we need to make a firm policy on this

I’m not aware of this specific example, but being open source is not nearly the only requirement. There are hardware attacks to consider too and even if it was also Open Hardware, it would be so difficult (and unrealistic) to control the manufacturing down to the chip level to make sure it’s all being built to spec. There needs to be a foolproof way to verify the data at all stages.

Not me. I think the idea has merit but it’s not a magic bullet.

I’m willing to accept other perspectives even though I think that assuming the implementation is actually right in every way, it wouldn’t be that hard to get public acceptance.

Buzzword is part of it too, we should say SOMETHING. Even if that’s a NO to blockchain [insert an irreconcilable flaw] I’m perfectly fine with this, but at least we addressed it.

This is specific to Bitcoin, not Blockchain. Bitcoin gives value to whoever has the most computing resources, that’s no way to run an election (and bad for the environment/waste of electricity).

I’m not a Blockchain super expert, but I think that it’s possible to use blockchain without this component, and instead rely on some form of authentication which also anonymises the ID of the voter, and without the Decentralised nature of it either (distributed to the public/scrutineers in read-only form only, pre-anonymised)

This is a big deal because everyone has different handwriting, I simply do not trust OCR enough to handle human written digits. Even if it COULD be verified by a human, doesn’t mean that it actually is. I’d prefer OCR handling machine-written digits in an exact font it’s expecting, and scrutineers able to use their own OCR to make sure the AEC one is working properly (i.e. in case of a State-sponsored level attack on the OCR machine).

and independently verifiable because even Open Source is not immune to compromise.

(miles_w) #75

If our public position is opposition to the Flux Party, then we need a clear actionable alternative which incorporates direct democracy. Check out https://voteflux.org/dashboard/ to understand why I am taking such a strong stance on this. That rising line over the last month of the graph I credit largely to their activities in Queensland where they registered as a state party two days ago. My focus in the party is membership and outreach so there are many things I have learnt from their approach already and I feel even more we can gain.


We are not opposed to them, we are just incompatible to support or become them. It’s more of a neutral stance.

It doesn’t mean that they aren’t doing some things right in strategy, or that they won’t end up producing any good ideas which we could learn from, or that we can’t promote Pirate values which could end up influencing their members.

But the fundamental organisational structure/values are just too different.

If they could vote themselves into having some core values which are the same as us… then… maybe. But we’re not going to adopt blockchain voting just because unless it can be done at least as good as our current system and without introducing vulnerabilities.

(Jesse Hermans) #77

On the topic of Flux… I am not against Flux per se, but I am against liquid democracy.

Is it reasonable for the PPAU to have a position against the concept of liquid democracy and commodification of voting rights?

Does anyone here or any Pirate seriously support the concept of making voting rights transferable and commodified? A society where one has the power to sell their vote to the highest bidder, trade their vote or potentially transfer it to someone under some insidious form of coercion. If so on what grounds?

I believe such a position turns voting rights into voting privileges, and is fundamentally incompatible with democracy itself and PPAU values outlined in the constitution:

  • social equality
  • paticipatory and deliberative democracy

I would think such a principled stance should be included in any electoral reform policy. Actual mentioning or discussion of Flux is completely unnecessary and counter productive in my view. We are not concerned with who is advocating what, we concerned with the merits of individual ideas. We don’t need to critic a cake if the main issue with the cake is the flour it was made with.

(Jesse Hermans) #78

Rights as a fundamental concept (as I understand it) are not transferable. You can’t sell/trade your right to life, your right to live free of violence and slavery, your right to air etc. You either have the right or you don’t.


Well in a sense this is already happening on a broad scale when you vote for a Political Party or Representative at an Election you are transferring your vote to that party/person, giving them the power to use your vote for whatever you want, and you can be bribed in the form of political promises.

For example, everyone who relies on negative gearing for their investments has sold out to the Liberal Party who has promised to put their interests first rather than the nation as a whole.

When you allocate a vote to someone else, that’s like voting for a party instead of running for Parliament yourself, except you have more control to change your preferences on a whim even when it’s not an election.

I don’t necessarily agree with Flux, but just pointing out the perspective from the other side.

(Alex Jago) #80

The trick is to draw a line between delegation and trading.